Adding an extension to a terrace house is a common architectural design brief in the inner suburbs of Australian cities and Wellard Architects had completed a number of such projects before this one. “Most terraces, as a typology, are about cramming as much program into them as possible on a tight footprint,” says practice director Huw Wellard. In Albert Park Terrace, Wellard Architects took a risk: rather than squeeze in an extra bedroom, they decided to create a double-height void above the kitchen and dining space. It was a risk that this particular client was happy to take, because this time Huw was designing for himself and his young family. He doesn’t regret the decision. Not only does it bring northerly light into the south-facing extension, it also allows acoustic and visual connectivity between a rooftop barbecue terrace and the rest of the living spaces. “We love to entertain,” Huw says. “The kitchen is downstairs, you can walk upstairs to the barbecue and still be in conversation with everyone in this one hardworking zone.”
Huw, his wife Jade and their two young children had been living in the old terrace for fourteen months before undertaking the renovations. It was dark and cold and didn’t even have a functioning kitchen. “I barbecued every day; it was pretty full-on,” Huw recalls. They used this time to think about what the house needed. Following a precedent set by many of their neighbours in the street, they went up by two storeys, but were required by heritage regulations to set back the extension to make the new work almost invisible from across the road. “We would have loved to go up one more storey – that way you get ocean views as well – but that’s never going to happen here,” he says. As it is, the rooftop terrace has unobstructed city views to the north, beyond the treetops and over the re-slated roof of the existing terrace. “One of the advantages of being on this side of the street is that you don’t overlook neighbours [to the north] and so don’t need privacy screening [that might obstruct city views],” says Huw.
On the rear garden elevation, where privacy screening to the main bedroom is required, Wellard Architects has employed a series of horizontal battens. The whole facade is extraordinarily neat in its detailing, with no visible downpipes or flashing. The timber cladding acts as a rainscreen, as Huw puts it: gaps between the blackbutt planks allow the rain to penetrate the screen, behind which is a second waterproof facade made from compressed fibre cement sheet, painted black. The detailing is similarly tidy throughout the interior. Sometimes the hardworking minimalism of the details led to temporary problems during construction – a squeaky floor or a leaky door – but the team was able to rectify any issues with hands-on assistance from Huw, who, as it happens, also worked on the build. He ran the project as an owner-builder with help from two expert carpenters “borrowed” from Locbuild, a company Wellard Architects had previously worked with. Choosing to work with timber played to the subcontractors’ strengths, although the material choice is unsurprising given Wellard Architects’ portfolio of work.
Designing and building his own house enabled Huw to experiment with new details. Some needed several attempts to get right, while others were a success first time. For instance, the polished concrete floor was ground back with a ceramic disc rather than the more conventionally used metal one, producing a subtler-than-usual salt-and-pepper effect that is now in demand from new clients. It’s common for owner-builder projects to take longer on site than those managed by the enforcement of building contracts, but in this case the timing was efficient, with construction lasting just nine months. Huw gives credit to Jade for this logistical feat, as she encouraged him not to agonize for too long over design decisions.
Huw says that in small projects like this, you only need to make one or two key moves. Introducing the double-height void was the main one, but there is also something special about the blackbutt-battened floor of the bridge link that crosses the void and leads to the main bedroom: it is an identical copy of the privacy screen outside, complete with the black steel-plate edging, rotated to become a floor. “The language of the house is pretty simple,” says Huw, a statement that belies the effort and consideration that have clearly gone into the details. The whole design is minimal, precise and highly restrained. Apart from the generous use of blackbutt, the colour palette is almost greyscale. Within this narrow tonal range the surfaces are given three-dimensional texture and varying degrees of reflectivity that respond to light and to the touch of a hand in subtle ways. For instance, the dimpled matt bathroom tiles are hand-pressed and thus slightly irregular. Huw says that at some times of day the bathroom walls appear black, and at others a dark eucalypt green. With such clean lines, precise alignments and broad continuous surfaces, it is these material quirks and the play of light and shadow that come to the fore.
The double-height void is the big architectural move in a design that is rigorously utilitarian and efficient. Everything has to work hard in a tight footprint – the mezzanine study is also the corridor to the bedroom, while the laundry is tucked under the stair – but at Albert Park Terrace the void allows the space to breathe, the light to slant in and the occupants to commune.
Products and materials
- Lysaght Klip-lok roof in Zincalume
- External walls
- Eco Timber blackbutt battens in Cutek Extreme wood oil
- Internal walls
- Painted Easycraft V-groove lining boards in Dulux ‘Natural White’; painted CSR plasterboard in Dulux ‘Domino’
- Windows and doors
- Timber windows and doors in Cutek Extreme wood oil by McKay Joinery; powdercoated steel windows and doors by Steel Windows Australia
- Boral blackbutt flooring in Loba water-based polyurethane finish; Pronto Concrete off-white concrete with matt seal; Cavalier Bremworth loop pile carpet
- Flos Easy Kap downlights, Running Magnet track lighting and external wall lights
- Custom blackbutt joinery in 2-pac finish by One Interiors; Maximum stone splashback in ‘Moon’; Gaggenau oven, cooktop and microwave; Qasair rangehood; Miele fridge and dishwasher; Jordain Stone stone island benchtop in ‘Grigio Lato’; Franke stainless steel sink; Astra Walker tapware in ‘Matt Black’
- Custom blackbutt joinery in 2-pac finish by One Interiors (bathroom); custom joinery in crown-cut blackbutt veneer by One Interiors (ensuite); Jordain Stone Carrara marble benchtops; Mutina ceramic tiles; Rogerseller basins and toilets; Astra Walker tapware in ‘Brushed Platinum’
- Heating and cooling
- Daikin bulkhead units; in-slab hydronic heating; hydronic panel heating
- External elements
- Eco Timber recycled blackbutt decking in Cutek Extreme wood oil; Bamstone bluestone paving; Element Fire Pit by Adam Goodrum for Tait
- Project Team
- Huw Wellard, Matt Myers, Harriet Collins
Engineer Clive Steele Partners
Landscaping consultant Eckersley Garden Architecture
- Site details
Site type Urban
Site area 167 m2
Building area 159 m2
Type Alts and adds, Heritage, Residential
- Project Details
Completion date 2019
Design, documentation 5 months
Construction 9 months